The big risk for any business today is thinking small and moving slow.

So how to make sure your team is thinking big enough and moving fast enough?

Try using what I call the Innovation 9 Box.

The Innovation 9 Box is similar to the popular “9 Box” used in assessing talent in an organization. A talent 9 box compares different leaders in terms of their potential and performance. The Innovation 9 Box compares ideas in terms of their Potential and Readiness. A talent 9 Box shows leaders where the opportunities and risk lie in the pipeline for talent. The Innovation 9 Box shows leaders where the opportunities are in the innovation pipeline.

Here is what it looks like:

At any given time, a team should have 3-5 ideas or initiatives they are working on to improve the business. Each of these can be evaluated in terms of their potential impact (cost savings, revenue growth, brand enhancement, market reach, etc.) and their readiness (how quickly or easily the benefit can be obtained).

The Potential impact of ideas can be rated as either high, medium, or low. The scale is relative and depends on the scope of your business. For smaller companies, one million in new revenue might rate as “high impact” while in a larger organization, one million in new revenue would be considered low. Use your judgement.

In terms of readiness, significant issues means there are large obstacles that the team is not sure now how they might address. Needs works means there are a few key logistical or technical issues to work out. Ready state means some decisions need to be made in order to implement.

Once ideas are plotted, the Innovation 9 Box will give a team insight into whether the ideas are big enough and whether there are enough ideas that can be executed quickly.

Here is an example from a client who mapped out 5 of their recent ideas.

After this team reviewed the ideas on their Innovation 9 Box, they had the following observations:

  • They were happy that they had several ideas that had good potential impact and that only needed a few steps to make them work.
  • They did not consider any of their ideas as having high impact. This looked like an opportunity for them.
  • They realized that the reason they had not already done some of these things on the list was due to lack of focus as a team.

In contrast, another team with a different Innovation 9 Box might see that they have lots of big thinking, but nothing that might be ready to move soon. Teams like this might consider breaking up some of the aspects of the big impact ideas so that they can get some short-term wins. Or they might come up with unique ideas that would be easier execute soon.

The key points here for leaders are:

  • Teams must have a constant pipeline of ideas on which they are working.
  • Some of those ideas need to reflect big impact thinking.
  • Teams must be able to address ideas to get them into a ready state.

Get with your team. Assess the quantity and quality of the ideas to improve the business. Use the discussion to encourage big thinking that can be turned into practical application soon.